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Daniel Murphy showing signs he will be back by Opening Day

Murphy, who turns 33 during the first week of next season, is a key piece of the NL East champions’ lineup

Daniel Murphy

Daniel Murphy | AP

Nationals second baseman Daniel Murphy ambled around the team’s annual fan festival with the aid of a pair of crutches and declined to offer any sort of estimate about the length of his recovery from right knee surgery.

“I don’t want to put any timetables on it, because if you miss ’em, you guys get really fishy when stuff like that happens."

New manager Dave Martinez was a little more forthcoming.

“I talked to him this morning. He’s right on schedule. He feels like he’s going to be ready for opening day. That’s what we’re pushing for. That’s if there’s no bumps in the road, but hopefully we get him back for that. If we don’t, we have pieces to keep us afloat until he gets back.”

Washington Nationals Daniel Murphy , right walks with crutches during the Winter Fest celebration with fans at Washington Convention center in Washington. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Murphy, who turns 33 during the first week of next season, is a key piece of the NL East champions’ lineup.

He finished second in batting average and first in doubles in the league each of the past two seasons. In 2017, he hit .322 with a .543 slugging percentage, 43 doubles, 23 homers and 93 RBIs.

But over the last three games of Washington’s NL Division Series loss to the Chicago Cubs, Murphy felt something going on with his knee.

“Where I was aware of, like: ‘This may be a little bit more than just nicks. Something’s going to probably need to get looked at the end of the season.’ But it wasn’t anything I felt that was lingering or really I didn’t feel like had any impact on my game. Tough to say whether it did or not. It just kind of felt like the normal aches and pains of a season. I didn’t really think it would be this significant once they got the MRI.”

About a week after the Nationals were eliminated — and on the same day they announced the end of Dusty Baker’s tenure as manager — they quietly announced that Murphy had his procedure, which involved cartilage repair.

As for whether he knew of a specific episode that caused the injury, Murphy said he isn’t sure if there was one or it was a result of overuse. Or, maybe, some sort of combination.

“I’ve had people who are really, really smart in the industry say, ‘You’re going to be healthy if you treat this the right way. If you’re sensible about it.’ So that’s the goal right now. Just to be smart with it. I’ll be ready to play when it tells me I’m ready to play.”

Washington Nationals Daniel Murphy walks crutches during Nationals Winter Fest celebration with fans at Washington Convention center in Washington. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

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